"I had a pleasant relationship with my contemporaries"


This is a reproduction of Pulkit's post on HF.


Written by Lata Khubchandani


Shamshad Begum has fond memories of her contemporaries -- Zohrabai Ambalewali, Amirbai Karnataki, Begum Akhtar, Nurjehan, Juthika Ray, Rajkumari. "When we were together, we were great friends," she claims. "We had a pleasant relationship, though we didn't socialise with each other after work. At least, I didn't. But our professional association was good. We were all fans of K L Saigal. No one thought of harming the other, nor did we try to snatch work away from anyone."

She also explains why singing was harder those days. "Each song had to be recorded twice -- once for the film and once for the recording company. So even if you were working full time you could do only about four songs a day. Recordings took place in the evenings and shootings during the day. We worked in an atmosphere where composers put their soul into the compositions and the results are there to see -- even today -- isn't it?" asks Shamshad.

Does she have any regrets? "Yes," says Shamshad, "My greatest regret is that I never got to sing with K L Saigal, though we did sing for the same film, Shahjehan. I was really shy of getting photographed. Once the two of us ran into each other at the recording company, but he didn't know me because no one had seen my pictures. It was funny because we were then introduced and he said, 'arre kudiye ... tera bhala ho... tu kitna sona gaati hai... (God bless you, girl, you sing so well).' Her eyes glint as she narrates this incident, recalling every nuance in the voice of her favourite singer. It also makes one
realise the kind of talent these singers had and the respect they commanded from each other.

Ironically, each time Shamshad gave a hit song, she had to start all over again. All those composers who had once begged her to sing for them started giving her a raw deal. For instance, she recorded the song O leke pehla pehla pyar for CID which was, and remains, a popular song. After the recording, the sadder version was given to Asha Bhosle to sing, and this was publicised with great gusto. Despite that, it is Shamshad's version that remains in the memory of listeners. But she read the sign loud and clear, and preferred to opt out of the messy
situation, rather than stoop to stay in competition.

And in spite of life's vagaries, she made everything that came to her a big success. Her songs gave the careers of several music directors a boost -- Nashad (Nagma), O P Nayyar (Aar Paar), Chitragupt (Sindbad Jahazi). Her number with Kishore Kumar, Mere neendo mein tum mere khwabon mein hum will perhaps survive another century.

Shamshad still remembers her first impression of the young Kishore Kumar. Says she, "He was a fine boy, always full of life, but professionally low because he wasn't reaching where his brother had. I remember telling him, 'destiny is a great thing tomorrow you may become more popular than anybody else.' And he actually did."

Such was the demand for Shamshad Begum that film-makers waited for her to be free to sing for them. Tarachand Barjatya wanted her to come to Madras to sing for his film. But she couldn't spare the time, so he came to Bombay. In his film Bahar, she sang Dil ka qarar leke aaja re aaja pardesiya and Duniya ko laat maro. Guru Dutt had a superb singer at home in Geeta Dutt, but if he decided that Shamshad had to sing a particular number, then he awaited her pleasure and convenience.

That speaks for the talent and virtuosity of this singer, particularly when one sees how replaceable some others have been.

It was when people started playing games that Shamshad went into self-imposed oblivion. Today, she leads a retired life with memories of another day to keep her company. But she retains that regality which made her rule musicdom once.



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